Quince

By Gina Marzolo, graduate student of agricultural sciences, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, grmarzolo@cpp.edu, March 2016.

Edited by Dan Lee, communications specialist – College of Agriculture, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, dblee@cpp.edu, March 2016.

Introduction

Quince (Cydonia oblonga) belongs to the Rosaceae family, which includes apples and pears. Some quince varieties are palatable uncooked, but most quince are quite firm when ripe and have an astringent flavor when not cooked. When cooked however, the fruit develops a pretty pink blush, becomes tender, and develops a sweet and slightly tart flavor (McCandlish, 2009) (Durand, 2014). Quince is native to Caucasus, Transcaucasia and Central Asia (Quince – University of California, Davis, 2016).

The acreage of quince grown in the United States is relatively small, making the fruit a specialty crop. California is the only place in the United States that grows quince commercially, and the fruit is primarily grown within the Central Valley (Karp, 2009) (Quince Orchard Management – UCANR, 2016). The most popular commercial variety grown is named Pineapple and was cultivated by Luther Burbank. Burbank was an American botanist and horticulturalist who developed hundreds of new fruit varieties. He introduced the Pineapple variety of quince in 1899 (Karp, 2009) (Kasper, n.d.).

Marketing Channels

Quince fruit have a very similar harvesting timeframe to that of European pears (Quince Orchard Management – UCANR, 2016). In California, quince fruit are harvested from mid August to early November and can be available for purchase up through January (Karp, 2009). Quince is mainly sold fresh at local farmers’ markets, but it can also be found at specialty grocery stores. Processed quince products can be found through all marketing channels: farmers’ markets, specialty grocery stores, and online.

Quince has a flavor that lends itself well to both sweet and savory dishes. Quince can be baked and poached or incorporated into pies and cobblers. The fruit is often used in savory dishes to balance the richness of meats (Slater, 2015) (Kasper, n.d.).

To further add value, quince can be processed into products such as chutney, jams and jellies, juice, marmalade, puree, and liquors and wine (Tortorello, 2012). Throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Latin American countries, quince is commonly processed into a semi-solid paste known as membrillo. To enjoy, membrillo is cut into thin slices and spread on toast or served with cheese (Bauer, 2007).

Production

The world approximately grows 106,000 acres of quince. Turkey is the top producer of the fruit, growing roughly 26,500 acres (FAOSTAT, 2015) (Hummer et al, 2001). The United States grows between 180-300 acres of quince commercially (Karp, 2009) (Quince – University of California, Davis, 2016). California produced approximately 205 tons of quince with a value of almost $440,000 in 2012 (CDFA, 2012).

Quince plants are grown for their fruit, but they are also commonly grown as a dwarfing rootstock for grafting pears (Postman, 2009).

Quince fruit were once widely grown in the United States (more than 900 acres), primarily for their high pectin concentrations. Pectin helps to set jellies, pastes and preserves (Karp, 2009) (McCandlish, 2009). However, the use of quince declined with the invention of powdered gelatin in the 1890s (Postman, 2009).

But quince is making a comeback. Many high-end restaurants have featured quince because it is a specialty fruit. Quince is becoming more commonly found  season after season at farmers’ markets and specialty grocery stores (Quince – Grub Americana, 2013) (Stone, 2015) (Quince – CUESA, 2016). The National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Ore., is researching the quince, looking into traits such as cold hardiness, larger fruit production and disease resistance (ARS, 2015).

Exports/Imports/United States Consumption

Since quince is a re-emerging fruit crop in the United States, there is currently no export, import, or per capita consumption data available reported through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service or Foreign Agricultural Service (ERS, 2016) (FAS, 2016).

Management

The growing requirements for quince are very similar to that of apples and pears since they belong to the same family. However, quince does not require as many chilling hours to produce fruit (Zane, 2015).

Managing fire blight is one of the most essential practices for growing quince trees.  Fire blight is a disease caused by the bacterial pathogen Erwinia amylovora. The disease commonly affects plants in the Rosaceae family. Pear (Pyrus species) and quince (Cydonia species) are extremely susceptible to the disease (UC-IPM, 2011).

Canker is one of the main symptoms of fire blight and can occur on twigs, branches, or the trunk of the tree. Areas infected from previous seasons die, sink in, and become soaked with bacterial ooze that exudes from the infection site. Furthermore flowers, leaves and small twigs appear burnt, thus the name “fire blight” (UC-IPM, 2011).

Fire blight is most likely to occur when temperatures of 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit are followed by sporadic rain, but proper management can lessen the disease from occurring. The tissue of fast growing trees is very sensitive, and thus growers should avoid activities such as heavy fertilization and excessive pruning, because they promote quicker growth. Growers should also avoid irrigating during flower bloom; they should monitor and remove fire-blight-infected areas diligently (UC-IPM, 2011).

Financial

The total cost for growing quince can be up to 40 percent less than growing apples, according to Erin Schneider, co-owner of Hilltop Community Farm.

Sources


Links checked March 2016.